With COVID-19 cases on the rise among teachers, school officials are once again scrambling to keep schools open.
School districts in Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada announced this week that they will temporarily close or switch to remote learning amid a worsening teacher shortage.
In Indiana, at least four school districts in Marion County, including Indianapolis Public Schools, switched to distance learning this week. IPS announced Wednesday that the decision was “made based on the number of employee absences, including COVID-19 isolation and quarantine at the middle and high school levels.”
North Carolina has resorted to allowing state employees to use their allotted volunteer days to fill in for paid teachers, Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday. All schools in the Carson City School District in Nevada have also been closed for part of this week due to the increased number of employees who have contracted the COVID virus.
The surge in cases fueled by the omicron variant affects other members of the school staff as well. Maryland’s largest school district has asked the National Guard to fill bus drivers after massive staff increases led to 40 to 80 bus routes being cancelled, ABC News reported.
Samantha Farrow, a 16-year-old student activist at Stuyvesant High School and organizer of this week’s strike, said many New York City schools were left “pretty desolate” with half-empty classrooms and countless teachers missing.
Farrow said most of her teachers have been absent this week due to exposure to COVID or infection. Due to understaffing, most days were “non-teaching days” spent reading alone or navigating on her phone.
“It doesn’t seem like a good use of our time,” she said.
Rolling back on his pledge to keep students in schools, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference Thursday that he is also considering returning to distance learning as student attendance also falters amid surges in COVID cases.
Also in the news:
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government will double to one billion rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans.
► Cruise lines will not be obligated to follow COVID-19 guidelines on ships because the CDC’s framework for a conditional sailing order, which was extended and modified in October, will expire on Saturday.
📈Today’s numbers: The United States has recorded more than 63.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 846,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: more than 319 million cases and nearly 5.5 million deaths. More than 208 million Americans — 62.8% — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we read: The Supreme Court ruling was on Thursday A “dagger in the heart” of Biden’s campaign to vaccinate against the Corona virus? Some say the president still has other options.
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COVID Control nationwide testing sites center for ‘pause’
A nationwide coronavirus testing company under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice that has come under fire from customers in several states on Thursday announced a “one-week pause in all operations.”
The suspension was expected to take effect from Friday to January 21 at all COVID Control testing sites. The Illinois-based company’s website says it has more than 300 locations in the United States across several states. Two of those, Massachusetts and Washington, took action this week to close several of the company’s testing centers in their communities.
In an internal company memo addressed to “all site owners and administrators” and obtained by USA TODAY, the COVID Control Center noted “an increased media scrutiny of our collection site operations” over the past week. The company says it processes 80,000 test requests per day.
“This, along with various customer complaints, has resulted in various government health departments and even the Department of Justice taking a keen interest in our company,” the notice read.
– Grace Hook, USA TODAY
Supreme Court Bans Authorization of COVID Vaccine or Testing for Workplaces
The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked one of President Joe Biden’s signature efforts to combat COVID-19, ruling that his administration does not have the authority to impose vaccine or testing requirements on employers that would have covered tens of millions of Americans.
The unsigned opinion, which came days after judges heard arguments on an emergency appeal, was the second time the nation’s highest court has ridden the Biden administration’s pandemic policy, concluding once again that federal officials have overstepped the authority conferred on them by Congress. The court blocked the eviction order that Biden had imposed in August, ruling that it was also an overreach.
The disagreement in the workplace issue was whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had the power to enforce the requirements under the 1970 law.
It was not immediately clear what options, if any, the Biden administration would have to respond to. In a statement, the president said he was “disappointed,” and “it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether their workplaces should be made as safe as possible for employees.”
– John Fritz, USA TODAY
Contributing: Selina Tibor, USA Today; Associated Press